Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teacher contract negotiations to start

New state law keeps discussions open to the public

Express Staff Writer

    Contract negotiations are set to start Thursday between the Blaine County School District and the Blaine County Education Association, which is often referred to as the teachers’ union.
    Four days of negotiations are planned, with meetings running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. In addition to Thursday, sessions are scheduled for Friday, May 10, Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17. All sessions will be held at the district office at 118 West Bullion St. in Hailey.
    The negotiation sessions remain open to the public, even though Proposition 1, an education reform measure involving teacher-union bargaining rights and providing for open meetings, was defeated last year in the general election. In response to defeat of Proposition 1, the state Legislature this year approved a new law that once again requires that negotiations be held in public.
    The new law also provides that any documents generated during negotiations, including a final agreement between the parties, be subject to public disclosure laws.
    Prior to 2011, when education reforms introduced by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna went into effect after being approved by the Legislature, negotiation sessions were held in secret, with the public typically not knowing what was negotiated until after both the union and the district board of trustees had ratified the agreement.
    The past two years, 2 percent pay increases for teachers have been approved. In 2012, 1 percent was a permanent pay raise while 1 percent was in the form of a one-time bonus payable in December. Teachers went without salary structure increases in 2009 and 2010.
    District Assistant Superintendent John Blackman explained Tuesday that another law passed this year by the state Legislature keeps “reduction in force” procedures out of the negotiations. If a layoff were to occur, Blackman said seniority cannot be the sole factor in determining who gets laid off.
    “You can use seniority as a factor, but it can’t be the only factor,” Blackman said, explaining that performance must also be considered.

Terry Smith:

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